On October 2, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) convened a panel discussion on the new research within Oliver Kaplan’s book, Resisting War, exploring how communities use cohesion and social structures to non-violently influence armed groups. It explores how organization of civilians can implement nonviolent strategies to pressure government troops, or paramilitary or insurgent fighters to limit violence, through cases from Colombia, with extensions to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and the Philippines, Kaplan’s research shows in some cases, where communities are more organized, there is a 25% regression in violence. Furthermore, through interviews with former combatants in Colombia who faced dissent from local citizens, consultations revealed that when deciding whether to use repression they weighed, in part, the solidarity of a community and the moral and reputational repercussions of committing a massacre.
In this event, panelists discussed the implications of the new research for preventing violence and protecting communities during conflict—and for countering violent extremism and stemming refugee crises.
As it relates to RBP, this is important research for understanding capacities, community-based solutions and existing coping mechanisms which may be employed/ supported to reduce risk. Panelists discussed that violence may, in some cases, actually stimulate civil organization. Civilians in the Colombian case examples have contextualized international humanitarian law, especially the distinction between combatants and non-combatants and designation of safe/ neutral spaces, and used it to advance their own self-protection. In such cases, there are opportunities for other humanitarian and other stakeholders to have an approach that seeks to enhance community organization initiatives and self-protection strategies designed to position themselves well when dealing with armed actors.